Satellite companies OneWeb and Eutelsat have agreed to unite. The transaction value was USD 3.4 billion. The unity of the two companies will create a powerful player in the global Internet communications market, competing with such giants as SpaceX’s Starlink and Amazon’s Kuiper. Together, both companies will be able to combine their satellites in low Earth orbit into a single network, offer their customers high Internet connection speeds with less latency and cover large territories. At the same time, OneWeb and Eutelsat will operate as separate brands. OneWeb’s current shareholders will receive a 50% stake in Eutelsat upon completion of the unity, which may take place in the first half of 2023.
“Combining our companies will allow us to expand communication and provide our customers with solutions for their needs in a wider range of applications. This combination will accelerate the commercialization of OneWeb’s fleet, while increasing the attractiveness of Eutelsat’s growth profile,” said Dominique D’hinnin, head of Eutelsat.
How many satellites do companies have?
The French company Eutelsat provides television and Internet using 36 satellites in geostationary orbits around the Earth’s equator. OneWeb has its own fleet of 648 satellites in orbit, of which 428 are used to provide telecom services.
The low-orbit satellite Internet enterprise Amazon Project Kuiper has planned to launch 3,236 satellites, but there are none in orbit yet. SpaceX Starlink, for comparison, has already launched thousands of satellites, has more than 250 thousand subscribers and offers high-speed Internet services around the world, including Ukraine.
Thorny Path of OneWeb
OneWeb was founded in 2012. The main goal of the company was to deploy a system of 650 satellites designed to provide broadband global Internet. In 2020, OneWeb declared bankruptcy. This was due to difficulties in obtaining the funding needed to complete the project. After that, the company was bought out by an international consortium, which included the UK government and the Indian telecommunications operator Bharti Global Limited. After the restructuring, OneWeb resumed the deployment of the system.
OneWeb competed with SpaceX at an early stage to provide Internet in the Arctic. In March 2021, the company launched 36 satellites into space, and last July announced that it had completed its “5 to 50” mission to provide coverage from the North Pole to the 50th Parallel. It was focused on global coverage until June of this year, but planned launches from Russia were discontinued after the aggressor country invaded Ukraine. Roscosmos began blackmailing OneWeb, as a result of which the company broke the agreement with the Russians and was forced to contact SpaceX to continue launches.
Recall that earlier we tried to figure out whether 5G would harm broadband satellite communications.
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